Posted On by &filed under High Court, Punjab-Haryana High Court.

Punjab-Haryana High Court
Amar Nath vs State Of Haryana on 9 November, 2000
Author: M Singhal
Bench: M Singhal


M.L. Singhal, J.

1. Amar Nath was driver in Haryana Roadways, Ambala Depot. On 18.1.1992, he was on duty in bus No. HNX 3045 belonging to the Haryana Roadways, Ambala Depot. The bus met with accident with truck No. PB-11B-5045. Case FIR No. 15 dated 16.1.1992 was registered against him under Sections 279/337 IPC at PS Shahbad. Bus was damaged. Departmental Inquiry was held against him on the following charge :-

“On 18.1.1992 when you, Shri Amar Nath Driver No. 83, returned from duty with Vehicle No. HNX-3045 to the workshop and on its checking by the Yard Master the following shortcomings were noticed in the vehicle :-

1. Entire body of the vehicle and top was damaged.

2. Both front shows were broken.

3. Vehicle radiator and driver window were broken.

4. AH the seats inside the vehicle were broken.

5. Driver side headlight and driver side window two
feet behind thereof sheet broken.

As a result of the Departmental Inquiry, the charge was found proved against him and he was found responsible to have caused loss to the vehicle which amounted to Rs. 15,285/- because of its being driven by him rashly and negligently. Amar Nath filed suit for declaration against the Stale of Haryana to the effect that the order dated 30.9.1993 passed by General Manager, Haryana Roadways, Ambala Depot whereby he had been directed to pay a sum of Rs. 15,285/- as damages to the Haryana Roadways was illegal, null and void, with consequential relief of mandatory injunction directing the General Manager, Haryana Roadways, Ambala Depot to release fu!l salary to him without any deduction therefrom on account of the said recovery haying been imposed upon him. It was alleged in the plaint that he was not given opportunity of being heard. He was not at all negligent and rash in the driving of the bus. In fact, it was the driver of the truck who was rash and negligent in driving the truck and was responsible for this accident resulting in damage to the bus. Damage to the bus was much less but he had been called upon to pay more. Punishment imposed upon him was too severe and grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the charge. No legal evidence was produced before the Inquiry Officer. He was not allowed to cross-examine the witnesses produced in the inquiry by the department. He was not allowed to lead evidence in defence.

2. Defendant-State of Haryana contested the suit of the plaintiff. It was urged that all the formalities which are required to be observed were observed in the inquiry. It was after the punishing authority had found him rash and negligent that he was punished with the imposition of the penally to the tune of Rs. 15.285/-. It was also urged that the suit is premature inasmuch as hehas filed appeal before the State Transport Commissioner which is pending. On the pleadings of the parties, the following issues were framed :-

1. Whether the order dated 30.9.1993 passed by defendant No. 2 is void, illegal and liable to be set aside ? OPP

2. Whether the suit of the plaintiff is not maintainable in its present from ? OPD

3. Whether the suit is bad for want of a valid notice under Section 80 CPC ? OPD

4. Whether the present suit is premature ? OPD

5. Relief.

Vide order dated 27.1.1997, Civil Judge (Junior Division), Ambala City decreed the plaintiff’s suit for declaration that the order imposing upon him the penalty to the tune of Rs. 15,285/- was illegal, null and void as there was no evidence at all to sustain the finding that he was rash and negligent. It was found that the findings of the Inquiry Officer are based on no evidence. Permission was granted to the plaintiff for filing the present suit without notice under Section 80 CPC keeping in view that the relief asked for was of immediate and urgent nature. Plaintiff’s suit was not held to be premature as his appeal was not decided till 6.9.1996 by the State Transport Commissioner. He could wait for the filing of the suit for 6 months after
the filing of the appeal. Not satisfied with this order, State of Haryana went in appeal which was allowed by Additional District Judge, Ambala vide order dated 31.7.1997 and the suit of the plaintiff was dismissed.

3. Not satisfied with the order passed by Additional District Judge, Ambala, Amar Naih has come up in appeal to this court.

4. It was submitted by the learned Counsel for the appellant that the inquiry Officer has based his findings on no evidence. There is no evidence at all to sustain his findings. During inquiry, the Inquiry Officer had recorded the statements of two SIs. He had recorded the statement of motor mechanic. On the other hand, the plaintiff had examined the conductor and a passenger of the bus. His case was that in fact he was not negligent or rash. Brakes of the bus had failed suddenly. Inspite of his best efforts, the accident could not be averted. White recording evidence, the Inquiry Officer had observed that the delinquent had failed to establish that the brakes of the bus had failed. It was not for the delinquent to prove his innocence. It was for the department to have brought the charge home to the delinquent. So far as the witnesses examined by the department in the inquiry are concerned, they were not eye witnesses. Both of them stated that after the accident they went to the spot and they were told by some shopkeepers that the plaintiff was rash and negligent in driving the bus. They did not state before the Inquiry Officer the names of the shopkeepers who had told him that the delinquent was negligent. On the other hand, the delinquent had examined the conductor of the bus who had stated that the brakes of the bus had failed suddenly and the accident took place on account of the sudden failure of the brakes of the bus. It was thus a case of “no evidence”. If the findings of the Inquiry Officer were based on some evidence, it could not then have been the duty of the court to examine whether the evidence on which the Inquiry Officer had acted was or was not adequate. It was upto Inquiry Officer how much evidence to his mind was adequate to sustain the charge of negligence and rashness against the delinquent. It was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in B.C. Chaturvedi v. Union of India and others, 1995(5) Services Law Reporter 77S : I996(1) SCT 6I7 (SC) that “judicial review is not an appeal from a decision but a review of the manner in

which the decision is made. Power of judicial review is meant to ensure that the individual receives fair treatment and not to ensure that the conclusion which the authority reaches is necessarily correct in the eye of the court. When an inquiry is conducted on charges of misconduct by a public servant, the Court/Tribunal is concerned to determine whether the inquiry was held by a competent officer or whether rules of natural justice are complied with. Whether the findings or conclusions are based on some evidence, the authority entrusted with the power to hold inquiry has jurisdiction, power and authority to reach a finding of fact or conclusion. But that finding must be based on some evidence. Neither the technical rules of Evidence Act nor of proof of fact or evidence as defined therein, apply to disciplinary proceedings. When the authority accepts that evidence and conclusion receives support therefrom, the Disciplinary Authority is entitled to hold that the delinquent officer is guilty of the charge. The Court/Tribunal in its power of the judicial review does not act as appellate authority to re-appreciate the evidence and to arrive at its own independent findings on the evidence. The Court/Tribunal may interfere where the authority held the proceedings against the delinquent officer in a manner inconsistent with the rules of natural justice or in violation of statutory rules prescribing the mode of inquiry or where the conclusion or finding reached by the disciplinary authority is based on no evidence. If the conclusion or finding be such as no reasonable person would have ever reached, the Court/Tribunal may interfere with the conclusion or the finding, and mould the relief so as to make it appropriate to the facts of each case.”

5. Additional District Judge fell in error when he held that the Inquiry Officer justifiably observed that it was the duty of the delinquent to prove that there was sudden failure of brakes. It is true that the Inquiry Officer was not required to observe the strict rules of evidence as laid down in the Evidence Act but it is equally true that there should be some evidence to sustain the charge of negligence against the delinquent.

6. It was also submitted by the learned Counsel for the appellant that the appellant could not be burdened with the damage caused to the bus as he was in Jhe course of the duty while he was driving the bus and if the bus met with an accident, the State should suffer the damage to the bus because the servant was not bound to compensate the master for any loss done to the master during the course of his duty.

7. In my opinion, the appellant could not have been burdened with this liability by the State of Haryana when he was in the perfonnance of his duty and during the course of perfonnance of his duty, some damage happened to be caused to the bus.

8. For the reasons given above, this appeal has to be allowed and is accordingly allowed. Judgment and decree passed by Additional District Judge, Ambala are set aside and those passed by Civil Judge (Junior Division), Ambala City are restored.

9. Appeal allowed.

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